The Need For A New City
Saudi Arabia is one of the richest countries in the world and the current sources of its economy are - crude oil export and religious tourism.
The country produces 10,000 barrels of crude oil daily and exports it to many countries. The 'Hajj' to Mecca and Medina also brings lakhs of pilgrims to the nation thereby strengthening the financial status of the nation. The net worth of Saudi Arabia's Royal family is around 1.4 trillion dollars according to Forbes and it is famous for its extravagant lifestyle.
But scientists have concluded that crude oil will run out by 2052. Saudi Arabia would still be comfortable in such a situation but the lifestyle they enjoy today would be significantly lowered. To combat this, Sheikh Muhammad bin Salman is making plans for the promotion of Western tourism in the country drawing an example from Dubai which has reduced its crude oil dependence to 3%. The new linear city project of a straight line city of 170 miles is an attempt in this direction.
Diplomacy And Dreams
The Sheikh plans that they will achieve zero dependence on fossil fuels by 2030. The city will be built in the Tabuk province of Saudi Arabia.
To maximise tourists, a bridge will be made connecting NEOM to Egypt's Sharm El Sheikh which is a popular destination.
This will make the idea of visiting NEOM city more appealing for the tourists who are visiting Egypt for its rustic pyramids and temple ruins. Also, this land connection would bypass Israel being strategically important.
The city's infrastructural plan is also unique as it will be built on three different levels. The first level is the pedestrian level where there will be no vehicles and people can move freely in a natural environment. The second level would be a commercial one, called the service lane and will have malls, hotels, resorts and other retreats with vehicle availability.
The third level would act as a backbone of the city with an ultra-high-speed train which would traverse the distance of 170 miles in just 20 minutes.
This train would function on the principle of magnetic levitation and is the main reason behind the linear structure of the city. The train would take more time at curves so to keep the time minimal, the city will be developed in a straight line. The project is allocated a massive budget of 500 billion dollars.
New Technology Is The Solution
The main question in this plan is, how will the city secure potable water for its citizens? The current methods of reverse osmosis and desalination would be too costly.
Engineers have come up with the solution of installing a large glass globe in the centre which would be filled with seawater. This water would be distilled by trapping solar heat and the purified water would be collected and used for drinking purposes.
It is estimated that an average of 50 million litres of fresh water can be produced daily by this method. Reverse osmosis and desalination cost about $1 per thousand litres of water but by this method, the cost would be $0.38 per thousand litres.
This implies a 62% reduction in the cost of production of water in the city. For meeting other energy needs, wind turbines and solar panels would be installed which will convert the water into green Ammonia through electrochemical cells.
Green Ammonia is similar to Green Hydrogen but has a lower risk factor than the former. It does not release any toxic gas from being burnt and is environment friendly. The finer aspects of the city's construction remain to be seen but one thing is definite: Saudi Arabia is quite serious about its future.
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